“What is the flying time to Chittoor?” was the last query Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy put to Captain S.K. Bhatia before boarding the helicopter that crashed into a hillock in Kurnool district on Wednesday.
“It is two hours and ten minutes,” the pilot replied, after which Dr. Reddy got into the Bell-430 chopper at 8.35 a.m. from Begumpet airport, on his way to Chittoor to launch the ambitious village-visit programme ‘ Rachabanda’ (village square).
Never one to waste time, Dr. Reddy spent 50 productive minutes prior to boarding the helicopter. After a light breakfast, he left his residence at 7.45 a.m., and on reaching Begumpet airport a few minutes later, went into a huddle with his Principal Secretary Jannat Hussain and Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) K. Arvind Rao for a meeting on the law and order situation and adverse media reports.
Dr. Reddy signed three files, including one on the Appropriation Bill that was passed in the Assembly on September 1. Minutes before boarding the chopper, he gave his last interview to Sakshi Television, owned by his son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.
Sources said some interesting developments took place the day before Dr. Reddy was to fly to Chittoor. Roads and Buildings Minister Galla Aruna and Forests and Environment Minister P. Ramachandra Reddy pitched hard with CMO officials to travel with Dr. Reddy, but were asked to receive him in Chittoor instead.
The Chief Minister’s aide Ravichand, who was also scheduled to fly with him, had to drop the plans as the pilot made it clear on Tuesday that only three passengers could travel, since the chopper’s fuel tank was full.
It was a routine call at 10.45 a.m. by Bhaskar Sharma, personal secretary to the Chief Minister, that triggered the alarm, as he did received no response on whether the choppers had landed. Immediately, further calls were made between 11 a.m. and 11.15 a.m. to the Chittoor Superintendent of Police, the Managing Director of Andhra Pradesh Aviation Corporation Limited, and Special Secretary Ramana Reddy, to enquire about the safe landing.
Sources said an employee of the Aviation Corporation, Narasimha Rao, even informed the CMO that the helicopter had landed in Chittoor, as he had spoken to the co-pilot. The information, however, turned out to be false.
It was at 11.30 a.m. that the Advisor to the Chief Minister, K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, was informed about the crucial development.